Irish Consul General Noel Kilkenny mentioned this week his fear that in 30 years time, Irish America may go the way of German America, that is, largely lose its identification with its ancestral homeland, in our case, Ireland and Irish culture. Do you share that fear? And what might each of us do to avoid that sad fate?
Further, Kilkenny suggests that Irish America is now at the apex of its influence and prestige in the United States. Do you concur?
And what might we all here within The Wild Geese's expanding ranks, with the tools we have here, do to best promote these links with 'Mother Ireland'?
I doubt it. Is there anything in the German American experience that corresponds to the varied St. Patrick's Day parades - including several that predate the founding of our nation? Is there anything in German American culture that corresponds to the vibrant Irish American culture - music, dance, literature, etc? Because of the wars of the last century, German Americans were inclined to push away strong ties to the Fatherland. the Irish in America have never had to do this
There is something special about being an Irish American. I have kept what little culture I had, but now, I am expanding my Irish heritage. Friends my age are reclaiming who we are. We are learning the history, cooking the food, and are proud of our heritage. The Irish American is very loyal to their "homeland". I dream of going there...and I will....
Interesting prediction by Mr. Kilkenny. I certainly hope he's not right about it, but without concerted efforts like the one ongoing here at TheNewWildGeese.com, I can see the identity of Irish-America waning if not fading completely. I hope this new site thrives and ropes-in as many Irish-Americans (and people of Irish descent in other parts of the world) as possible to keep us all connected to our Irish roots.
I'm hoping to do whatever I can through photography to curb the tide Mr. Kilkenny is warning us about.
Jim, some compelling and astute observations on your part, I think. And Kerry points out a welcome trend I think, the search by many boomers for their roots. And of course, Ryan, we would like to see this community in the vanguard of efforts to secure the epic heritage of the Irish for generations to come. With your aid and support, I believe, we can be that kind of force for good!
We all have a part to play in either its continuance or in its demise. Each of us here at Wild Geese brings soemthing unique and vital to the table. It wasn't too far back in history that being Irish in American was not seen in a good light. Be that as it may, we still held to our culture, our heritage, persevered and pushed through. Irish-Americans have made huge contributions to America's tapestry. It is telling that so many "celebrities" want to be Irish themselves.
If we can continue to foster that sense of belonging and cultural pride in our children and, in time, pass along those traditions, stories, heritage and culture to our grandchildren, it will go a long way to retention.
Well spoken, Bit.
"Go the way of German America"? Being focused on Irish America you might not be up on just how active German America actually still is. Please read on...
All four of my grandparents were born in Europe, two in Ireland and two in Germany. I grew up with a strong connection to both cultures, I am proud of both and spend a lot of my free time in both communities here in the S.F. Bay Area. My wife was born in Germany, so we are a bilingual home.
I think the Irish American community is just as much at risk as the German American community, or for that matter the Italian or Polish communities in America. Euro-Americans who still have ethnic identities are aging, our youth are loosing their traditons and assimilation is taking its toll, that's a fact. Demographics in 1960 are very different than what they are today, all I have to do is look at the neighborhood I grew up in.
In fact, I grew up in an Irish neighborhood in San Francisco in the 60s and 70s - today it is an Asian neighborhood. Nothing against these hard working folks, but we do not have in the Irish community today what we had even 40 years ago. Yes, there are lots of new Irish pubs that open here for all the Plastic Paddy's and the tourists, but the old time Irish working class pubs I grew up in are down to a half dozen or so. I still go to the "Irish Cultural Center" (hall) in my old neighborhood on a Saturday night for live music and some dancing, and its usually dead by 9PM! When I was kid, you couldn't get in the place. So what really happened? We know what's happened, and it hurts, real bad...
Look, there are a lot of hard working I/A's still out there keeping a lot of the culture alive, and it will continue for many years, it will always be a part of America, but perhaps in the future on a smaller scale, kept alive in certain special families who are loyal and treasure the traditions of Éire. My Catholic Irish grandparents came over from Cavan in the 20s, they lived in a different Irish America, it was real, and I saw the last of that generation who have now all passed on. Our parish growing up was 80% Irish, today its about 20%. They moved to the suburbs!
But thank God for this web site, helping to bring us together!
As far as the German American community? They face many of the same issues that the Irish face in America. But don't think they are not still very well organized and active, but they to are also aging.
The Germans here still have large parades every year ("Von Steuben Day") held in NYC, Chicago and Philly. It's not just one day or weekend like St Paddys, but EIGHT WEEKENDS all over America of Oktoberfests in September and October, along with a national "German American Day" every October 6th.
Next weekend my children (20 and 23 years old) will fly from California to Cleveland for dance compititions in Bavarian "Schuhplattler" (folk) dancing. Over 75 German dance groups from all over North America will compete in group and individual dance compitions (serious stuff!), just like the Irish kids do with their step dancing and céilí dancing. There are 100's of kids of the 3rd and 4th generatrion doing Bavarian dancing in America. You never hear about this do you?
Here in Northern California we have over 30 German clubs, 10 club houses, 5 full time schools, 7 Saturday schools, a church and 10 German dance bands to keep us happy. We also have a weekely radio show, two weekly newspapers and 25 restaurants as well as 15 bakeries and deli's. I would say the German community is actually more active and has more going on here than the local Irish community and I support and enjoy both! The Irish in the Bay Area have a lot of pubs, but only one central hall and one monthly newspaper. They have a great parade, but do not have all the Fests that bring in 1000's of people the way the Germans do. All the Irish clubs use the the one hall, and outside of S.F. they do not have clubhouse or halls like the Germans do.
The point is the Germans are just a little more quiet and more "underground" (and you know why... ) except during Oktoberfest season. So if you are not in the community you might think we were gone, we are not, not at all!!
Thanks for letting me vent a little...
Those are great comments to balance out the discussion a bit, Kent. Thanks for those thoughts!
Thank you Ryan - I appreciate that. We are all trying to hold on and keep a little of the memory of or families alive far from the homeland. What its really all about I think is love of family. The memory of those who came before us and did so much to make us who we are. What keeps me going is remembering them and not letting their memory die - it's why I think certain Irish songs give me chills and bring a tear to my eye, I'm not a very emotional guy, but many of the memories of my grandparents I connect to the old Irish-American music I listen to (on LP's!!).
Kent, go raibh maith agat for rounding out our perspective. We do have an active German community here in metro New York, centered, it seems to me, on Long Island, at least, in Franklin Square, at Plattdeutshe Park. My mom's grandfather, surname Krause, came from Alsace, and considered himself German, though control of that territory reverted to France, then Germany, then back again. Many Americans are of German ancestry, and they comprised the largest ethnic group in the Federal Army during America's Civil War, I believe I've read, larger than the Irish.
I Ger, thank you for your comments, maybe I over did it a bit, but as an "ethnic" American I am still very passionate about my heritage as are so many others here at the Wild Geese.
I have family (Irish side) in Woodside, Queens and mom's family (German side) in Ridgewood and Glendale (Queens). There is still a German community in Ridgewood and Glendale, but it is dying off fast. I have been to the "Plattdeutsche Park" in Franklin Sq. several times over the years. It's still the heart of the G/A community in the NYC area. Glad you know about it!
If you want to check out a good Irish/German pub in Queens, check out the CELTIC GASTHAUS in Glendale. It's a mix of Irish and German in NYC that is really cool. Several old German restaurants were at one time owned by Irish families in Queens and L.I. - "Koenig's" (Floral Park) and "Manor Oktoberfest" (in Glendale and Forest Hills) are still owned by Irish Americans.
Wondering if I can do a list here on the web site of famous Americans of Irish/German ancestry. Many people who you might think of as being only Irish American also have a little of the Kraut in them...
For examlple; The two Kelly's -Gene- and -Grace- were Irish/German as are the Clooney's -Rosemary- and -George- and dozens and dozens of others I have put on my list that might surprise you.
Hey, many of us who have been here three or more generations are often "mixed", and the Irish seem to have gone for the Germans (at least the Catholic ones in the cities) more than anyother nationality in America. Although, Irish / Italian is also very common where I come from (S.F. Bay Area) - going to Catholic schools in S.F. in the 60s/70s about 90% of the students in our school were of only three ethnic groups- Irish, Italian and German. The Irish of cousre ran the show! God Bless em'!
Alsace (Elsass in German) was (and still is) an ethnic German region, however the people there (like the Swiss and Austrians) are very proud of their regional culture and dialect (called "Alemannisch") and do not think of themselves as "Germans" or even as French for that matter. My grandparents spoke an Alemannisch dialect, having come from south Baden just across the Rhine River from Alsace.
The Irish and German element in the Union Army was a major component within the ranks of the Federal Army. I would say the Irish over all outperformed the Germans in this war, however, both played a key roll in the victory of the North.
Although newly arrived, these hearty souls adapted quickly. Most took out American citizenship, sent their children to school and in the case of the Germans, made attempts to learn English. Politically, most were loyal to the Union, with many supporting the Republican party. The Irish were an exception to this, however, as they became ardent Democrats, forming the backbone of the machine politics of the great cities of the East. Upon the outbreak of hostilities of 1861, these ethnic groups responded to Lincoln's call for troops in stirring fashion. Often, men from the same background and origin banded together to form regiments from the states where they had settled. Others joined local units and served with their native born neighbors. The overwhelming majority of these foreign born immigrants served loyally and well in the Union armies. It was an absolute falsehood, however, that the majority of all Federal troops were foreign born, as was an oft repeated assertion of the Southern and British press of the time. Based on enlistment rolls and other official reports and stated in round figures, out of approximately 2,000,000 Union soldiers enlisted during the war over two-thirds (2/3) were native born Americans. Thus, only under one-third (1/3) of all troops were non-natives distributed approximately as follows:
German c. 200,000
Irish c. 150,000
You can see the major contribution both made. I also have done some research on the Irish and German contribution to the Confederate Army,something many people forget about. It was smaller in numbers, but very important as well.
During the Mexican American War The Saint Patrick's Battalion (Batallón de San Patricio) formed and led by Jon Riley, also had an important German element within it when they joined up with the Mexican Army to fight the Americans. I have a list of the Germans and Swiss who died fighting with their Irish comrades 1846-1848. Just another example of these two immigrant groups joining together to fight an Anglo America that did not always accept or want them.